Special Report

25 of the Most Famous Shipwrecks Ever Found

Eduard Bohlen
> Found: Namibia
> Grounded: 1909

Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, a stretch of barren desert dunes that meet the Atlantic Ocean in a shroud of fog, is littered with shipwrecks. The most picturesque of these is the Eduard Bohlen, a German cargo ship that ran aground in 1909 on its way to South Africa and washed ashore along the coast. Because the shoreline has changed over the years, the wreck now sits 1,000 feet away from the water, surrounded by nothing but sand.

Roman-era Merchant ship
> Found: Israel coast
> Sunk: 5th century

In 2016, two divers discovered cargo from a 1,600-year-old merchant ship off the coast of northern Israel, in the ancient Roman port of Caesarea. Subsequent salvage efforts have recovered treasures including elaborate and well-preserved bronze statues, pottery, and metal coins. The ancient harbor has been the site of numerous recent ship cargo discoveries, with troves of gold, jewelry, gemstones, and ceramics recovered in 2021.

Source: Pool / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes
> Found: Portugal coast
> Sunk: 1804

The Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, a Spanish frigate sunk by the Royal Navy in 1804, may be the most valuable shipwreck ever discovered. About $500 million in gold has been recovered from the wreck, which was found off the coast of Portugal in 2007. The Spanish and Peruvian governments have both claimed ownership of the gold, and in 2012 a U.S. Supreme Court case granted Spain rights to the treasure. Along with other artifacts from the shipwreck, the gold is now on display in museums across Spain.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Korean 12th-century shipwreck
> Found: South Korean coast
> Sunk: 1300s

In 2007, South Korean archaeologists discovered a huge cache of well-preserved Korean porcelain from a 12th-century shipwreck, after local fishermen caught an octopus clutching an ancient plate and reported the find to authorities. The collection includes over 2,500 cups, bowls, and plates that were meant to be delivered to government officials and nobles of the Goryeo Dynasty.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

> Found: Swedish coast
> Sunk: 1495

The Gribshunden, which translates to Griffen-Hound, was a medieval Danish warship that featured a colorful, elaborately carved, 660-pound wooden figurehead depicting a sea monster. The ship sank off the coast of Sweden in 1495 after catching fire. It was discovered in the 1970s but major salvage and excavations began in 2015. It is possibly the best-preserved late-medieval ship in the world.

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